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« A world-famous lunatic: the "Seillière affair" (1887-1889) and the circulation of anti-alienists' views in the nineteenth century »
Title of the book
Transnational Psychiatries. Social and Cultural Histories of Psychiatry in Comparative Perspective c. 1800-2000
Cambridge Scholars Publishing
Ernst Waltraud, Mueller Thomas
Following Foucault's analysis of "psychiatric power", the French history of psychiatry has considered the insane to be the great absence of history, being immured within the walls of psychiatric discourse as well as those, more concrete, of the asylum. In this chapter, the author discusses this classic a priori of the French historiography, as recent research reveals that in France-as elsewhere-lunatics actually managed to express themselves and to be heard outside of the medical walls, to a greater extent than hitherto thought. The "mad culture" thus diffused into the "normal one", patients‟ words and actions contributing to the shaping of modern images of madness. These discoveries not only shed new light on the French past. They also suggest that the role played by patients in the history of psychiatry should be studied in a more transnational perspective, as it appears that several lunatics were able to transcend boundaries and to trigger debates on a larger scene. Such was the case of Baron Raymond Seillière, whose various encounters with mind-doctors (including Jean-Martin Charcot) caused an international stir, forcing France and the United States to compare their views on the management of the insane. Seillière's psychiatric wanderings thus provide an interesting insight into patients‟ participation in the circulation of "anti-alienist" conceptions at the end of the 19th century, a time when many believed that what the insane had to say was as important as their physicians‟ jargon.
history, psychiatry, France, USA, Raymond Seillère, Edmond Kelly, Benjamin Ball, Jean-Martin Charcot, 19th century
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